Sir Keir Starmer has promised to introduce school lessons to teach pupils about the menace of violence against women and girls if Labor wins power. The party leader said he wanted to bring about a “cultural change” as he vowed to cut the number of attacks on females by half. He told the Daily Express that “early interventions” are the best way to tackle the violence that affects one in three women a year.
Asked if he would be willing to add the subject to curricula, Sir Keir said: “Absolutely. I think preventive stuff is really important.
“And I know it’s difficult – but I do think you can bring about cultural change… Boys and young men need to be part of that debate to hear first-hand some of the testimony.”
Calling for more openness, he said education and transformation could come in much the same way that discussions around mental health have progressed.
He added: “I think if we’d had a conversation 10, 15, 20 years ago about mental health and whether we would be talking about it in school, we’d have probably said, no.”
An estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 were victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2021. The previous year 81 women were killed by domestic violence.
Sir Keir added: “With the right approach, we could begin a discussion which would enable boys and young men to feel much more comfortable because it does require them to call out and to understand it.”
Earlier, the Labor leader held a round table discussion with campaigners and experts at St Giles Trust, a south London charity which supports at-risk groups, including vulnerable women.
Speaking alongside Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, Sir Keir said: “One of the things we are committed to is halving the incidents of violence against women and girls…we’re on a mission.”
Listening to TV star Georgia Harrison and actress Emily Atack, who have both spoken of their experiences of violence, Sir Keir said his time as Director of Public Prosecutions hugely influenced his attitude to the problem.
He explained: “I began to see first-hand some of the problems within the criminal justice field – that awful journey that people have to go on through criminal justice and it gave me a sort of burning determination to do something about it.”
Leading the discussion on how a Labor Government could achieve the goal of halving the violence, Ms Cooper asked the panel: “Imagine the thousands of women who face abuse, violence and domestic violence every week.
“Then just imagine for a second if that level of violence and that level of homicide took place at football matches every week.
“And imagine the scale of change and reform, changes to the law, changes in parliamentary practice, we would be talking about.”
Labor MP Jess Phillips was also at the event and Ms Atack spoke after fronting a documentary into cyber-flashing and sexual harassment.
She said: “Since the age of 10 years old I’ve experienced extreme levels of sexual harassment, abuse and sexual assault. This was something that I just had to put up with, but it was also behavior that I realized I was kind of brainwashed into thinking was my fault…
“I’m sick of feeling guilty for simply existing.”
Sir Keir’s remarks add weight to Daily Express campaigns to keep women safe on our streets and to protect women’s rights.
In a bid to promote the causes, we have given a voice to dozens of women who have suffered street harassment.
And we are urging voters in next month’s local elections to ask candidates what they will do to fight abuse and support women’s rights.
Also joining discussions yesterday was Daniel Guinness, who runs the Beyond Equality group which aims to empower men to be better allies to women and girls and promote ‘positive masculinity’.